Star Tribune: City Council Accepts DeLaSalle Environmental Assessment Worksheet

Rochelle Olson writes in a sloppy article about the city council approval of the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) completed by city planning staff as ordered for the DeLaSalle-proposed Stadium project:

The prospects of a new football field on historic Nicollet Island became muddier Friday, even as the Minneapolis City Council gave approval to an environmental impact statement from the city.

Despite misgivings, the council voted 9 to 2 to move the football field proposal back to the park board. But the council has many more opportunities to stop it.

Council Zoning and Planning Committee Chairman Gary Schiff said ominously of the plan: DeLaSalle is “going to need all these historic approvals and we can just reject them.”

The entire article can be read here on the Star Tribune website.

Yes, there is an error in the second headline and in the story: the council approved an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW), not a more thorough Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The council members were deciding whether to order an EIS; they were not approving an EIS. One of the main requests in the 45 written comments from individuals and organizations was for the city to ask for research into alternatives, either in an EIS or during a delay before approving the EAW. Many readers know the difference and will get the wrong impression from the article.

Another error in the article is that the Park Board did not send the plan to the city for environmental review. Friends of the Riverfront successfully petitioned the state for the EAW. The state determined that the City of Minneapolis should do the EAW, and the city council decided the EAW was the mandatory rather than voluntary kind, due to the impact on historic resources (Grove Street). The Park Board had nothing to do with any of that.

The Park Board’s only direct involvment with the EAW was that the Park Board was barred by law from taking permanent action on the project until the EAW process was complete. It’s possible the reporter knows this but simplifies or dramatizes city processes with phrases like “the council voted 9 to 2 to move the football field proposal back to the park board” when of course the actual council vote didn’t say anything about moving it directly back to the park board.

Another flaw in the story is that it does not say why “DeLaSalle is seeking permission from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to build the field.” The Star Tribune never fails to mention that DeLaSalle is 106 years old, but consistently fails to mention that the school wants to build the field on public park land.

Even with those errors, this article was more fair than some have been to advocates for keeping public parkland public on Nicollet Island. There were no phrases like “exclusive neighborhood,” and the story emphasizes the potential roadblocks that remain for the stadium, and casts the project as being in trouble much more than we’re used to hearing, with words like “muddier,” “misgivings,” “ominously,” and “tough time.”